Following the events of the first film, Count Dracula’s (voiced by Adam Sandler) daughter Mavis (voiced by Selena Gomez) is now married to Jonathan (voiced by Andy Samberg) with a son named Dennis (voiced by Asher Blinkoff). As his fifth birthday approaches, Dennis has yet to grow his fangs, which worries Drac that he might not be a pure-blood vampire. On top of that, Drac learns that Mavis, wanting to protect her boy from the dangers of Transylvania, is thinking about raising Dennis in Johnny’s hometown.
So while Mavis and Jonathan travel to California to visit his parents, leaving Dennis in the care of his grandpa, Drac enlists the help of his friends – Frankenstein (voiced by Kevin James), Griffin the Invisible Man (voiced by David Spade), Murray the Mummy (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Wayne Werewolf (voiced by Steve Buscemi) – to train baby Dennis to become a monster.
It should be considered a miracle of God that I can talk to you about a film starring both Adam Sandler and Kevin James without the phrase “I want to shoot myself in the head.”
The first Hotel Transylvania was a film I didn’t get around to until recently in order to prepare for this film, and I was pleasantly surprised by it. Amidst all the garbage that Sandler and his cronies have subjected us to recently – the Grown Ups movies, the Paul Blart films, Jack and Jill, Blended, That’s My Boy, Just Go with It, Zookeeper, Pixels (it’s not a good thing when that film is the best of the bunch) – it was nice for once to see guys like Sandler, Kevin James, David Spade and so on get together and do a fresh and funny film that wasn’t 90 minutes of non-stop mindless poop and dick jokes.
Yes, there are moments where the gang goes for jokes that are low-hanging fruit, but even then they’re harmless for the kiddies. Returning along with the Sandler gang is director Genndy Tartakovsky, whose Dexter’s Laboratory background makes him a great fit for the style of both this film and its predecessor, and co-writer Robert Smigel. Together they once again deliver another snappy-paced animated adventure that pays homage to the Universal Monsters in a zany, slapstick way that will keep the kids smiling – Blobby was a big hit with them – and serving up a few gags for the adults to keep them from groaning (Drac’s GPS scored a laugh-out-loud moment from me), in particular, the way it pokes fun at the old school monsters dealing with a modern world (Drac’s visit to his old summer camp now turned into a lawsuit-happy sensitive camp was a nice touch). Much like DreamWorks’s Penguins of Madagascar, when you get a film that shoots the jokes out in rapid-fire fashion, some naturally aren’t gonna land, but for the most part, they hit their mark.
What’s especially nice here is that Sandler doesn’t follow his usual Happy Madison shtick. Normally, it’s a barrage of bitter, mean-spirited jokes, ones that aren’t clever or sharp but just dumb and obnoxious, which are then followed by the out-of-place lecture of how “family is important” or “those jokes were mean and we’re sorry”. So not only are his worst offenders mean-spirited, they don’t even have the cojones to stick with it, instead forcing in a faux heartfelt ending. Like the first film, there’s an underlying sweetness that flows throughout the entire film, and isn’t just some tacked on sappy ending used just to excuse all the annoyance that occurred before it.
The film does continue its message about acceptance. The first film dealt with Drac letting go of his anti-human bias toward his daughter’s non-vampire boyfriend, and now this time instead of Mavis’s boyfriend (now husband), it’s accepting the possibility that his grandson might not be a vampire as well (much of the film’s heart centers on their relationship). Granted, without saying much, the message kinda cops out at the end, but there are more than enough entertaining gags for both the kids and parents to where you can acknowledge that the message gets a tad on-the-nose and the ending cheats a little without crucifying the overall movie.
Plus, you can’t go wrong by putting a legend like Mel Brooks into your movie. I must admit, hearing him voice Drac’s old man Vlad put a big smile on my face.
It may not be as fresh as its predecessor, but Hotel Transylvania 2 offers plenty of fast-paced humor for audiences members both young and old. Even if it’s just their voices, it’s still nice to see Adam Sandler and his motley crew of Happy Madison regulars sink their teeth into a project more worthwhile than the tired juvenile gags that’s normally their bread and butter. It must say a lot of their other films that an animated feature ends up being the more clever and mature flick, but hey, I’ll take what I can get.
I give Hotel Transylvania 2 a B (★★★).